This week, January 1st, we celebrate the 148th anniversary of the birth of Baron Pierre de Coubertin.
I freely admit I am an Olympics junkie. This is very odd, considering I generally do not like sports. I don't watch football, can't tell you how the local teams are doing, and am apathetic about the whole Yankees/Red Sox thing. But every four years I become a temporary expert on all things Olympic. I watch every game and competition, read all about the athletes, and memorize all the stats. Want to know the rules of beach volleyball or who's favored in the 100 meter freestyle? Just ask me.
And I owe it all to Pierre de Coubertin. At 5'3", 100 pounds, no one would have mistaken the little man with the big mustache for an athlete. But no man was more important to the modern Olympics. He almost singlehandedly brought the Olympics back to life after more than 1500 years.
Inspired by the English system of encouraging athletics in schools, Coubertin set out to bring sports to French schools. He had little success at first. He began to travel to other countries to study the application of athletics to education. Gradually, his dream grew. He decided he wanted to revive the greatest sports competition in history--the ancient Olympics.
He travelled the world, speaking about the Olympic Games and gaining support for its revival. By 1894 he had enough people interested to arrange an international conference. Seventy-nine delegates from twelve countries voted to revive the Olympics. The first game would be held in Athens, Greece, the birthplace of the ancient Olympics. On April 5, 1896, the first Olympic Games in 1500 years were opened.
Baron de Coubertin became the face of the modern Olympics. When he died in 1937, his heart was buried at Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympics.